Tags: KKorea | spy | agency | scrutiny

N. Korea Spy Agency Under Scrutiny

Wednesday, 21 Apr 2010 09:55 AM


SEOUL - North Korea's Reconnaissance Bureau, the new integrated agency in charge of spy operations against the South, has become the focus of attention after speculation that it had a hand in sinking the Navy corvette Cheonan and the arrest of two agents in a plot to assassinate a senior defector.

Kim Yong-chol crosses the military demarcation line in the truce village of Panmunjom to attend the 7th inter-Korean generals meeting in this file photo from Feb. 12, 2007. He headed the North Korean delegation. Kim Yong-chol crosses the military demarcation line in the truce village of Panmunjom to attend the 7th inter-Korean generals' meeting in this file photo from Feb. 12, 2007. He headed the North Korean delegation.

The melodramatic plot apparently targeted Hwang Jang-yop (87), a former secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party and chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, who is the highest-ranking defector from the communist country. The two spies are said to have had orders from Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol, the chief of the Reconnaissance Bureau, to "cut Hwang's head off."

Won Sei-hoon, the director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, told lawmakers on April 6 that a North Korean official operating in Beijing said the Cheonan tragedy was the brainchild of the same Kim Yong-chol.

Intelligence sources say the Reconnaissance Bureau was created in February 2009 by merging the espionage departments of the Workers' Party, including a unit known as "Room 35," and military reconnaissance operation units.

The bureau oversees all espionage operations against South Korea. Lt. Gen. Kim is a hawk in the North Korean military who visited the Kaesong Industrial Complex in November 2008 and threatened South Korean businesses to leave. Although placed under the People's Armed Forces, it is "directly controlled" by the powerful National Defense Commission under the supervision of Gen. O Kuk-ryol, the commission's vice chairman, according to an intelligence source.

Experts say South Korea should be more wary of O than Kim. A former Air Force commander, O (79) served as the director of operations at the Workers' Party for 20 years handling espionage missions. O is said to have masterminded infiltration techniques using semi-submersible vessels and hang gliders. "He is a consummate strategist," said one high-ranking North Korean defector. "He is also very loyal to Kim Jong-il and has gained his trust."

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2010-55-21
Wednesday, 21 Apr 2010 09:55 AM
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